The Girl Behind the Red Rope by Rachelle and Ted Dekker

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Rachelle and Ted Dekker’s latest novel is a very creative take on a simple truth that many Christians never live out. The detailed allegory-like storyline, the relatable characters, and the extreme creativity culminate in an enjoyable, unpredictable read that illustrates key spiritual truths. Grace, her mother, and brother Jamie live in Haven Valley, a place whose borders are closed in by a red rope. The residents of Haven Valley live under the protection of a mysterious being who claims to protect them from the Fury – frightening beings who are always looking for someone to attack – in exchange for unconditional obedience. Among other things, there are strict rules for how men and women can dress, look, behave, and interact with others – and above all there can be no lies or secret sin. Jamie has always questioned the validity of the community’s core beliefs, and one day he acts on this impulse by convincing Grace to journey with him beyond the red rope. What the two see and experience beyond Haven Valley’s borders send them hurrying back to safety and leave them with more questions than before. When Grace returns from her brief venture into the unknown she brings back a friend no one else can see who claims to be a source of wisdom and protection. Against this friend’s advice, Grace keeps breaking rules in her search for truth. When her decisions lead to consequences that she never desired, Grace will have to decide what she believes and who can be trusted. To find out what happens to Grace, Jamie, (and everyone else I didn’t mention ’cause spoilers), read the book!:) On the whole, the plot and storyline in this novel demonstrate excellent continuity and a level of depth not usually seen in this genre. The dialogue between characters contains many thought-provoking dilemmas that we are all faced with at some point in our lives. (spoiler) Additionally, the underlying contrast of legalism as death and grace as life and freedom beyond our wildest imagination gives the plot meaning and will be attractive to non-Christians. On a side note, this is a rare Christian novel that I would recommend to a unbeliever, especially one who was turned off to Christianity by a legalistic church or person. In contrast, there are two errors that keep this novel from a perfect score. First, there are a few too many sensational villian sequences between Rose and said being. Lastly, it is my opinion that Ben’s story was somewhat glossed over compared to the other characters’ stories. In spite of this, the well-placed flashbacks, intelligent characters, and creative undertones round this section out to just short of a perfect score.

Character Development (3.5 points)

In comparison, this novel is a great example of what happens when two good authors collaborate on characters. First, Grace is a nearly perfect protagonist who demonstrates (rarely seen) refreshing intelligence, realistic emotional responses, and relatable thought processes. Second, Jamie is a great secondary character who adds much to the plot because his story takes a realistic turn. Rose is a unique antagonist who is neither a strawman nor a typical villian. This being said, her backstory, current responses to past familial tension and abuse, and dependence on something other than God is a great illustration of someone who feels like they have to earn their salvation. Additionally, the minor characters are above average and have a clear role in the story. Furthermore, the representations of Jesus, his sacrifice on the cross, and live-giving resurrection are well-placed and make the story all that it is. In contrast, the errors here are minor and could be fixed if the novel was adapted to be a screenplay. As previously mentioned, Ben’s story needs more depth and a bigger place in the story because of how his role ends. Finally, some of the characters’ stories are wrapped up rather quickly; however, because the pros outweigh the cons here, the Dekkers earn an above average score in this section.

Creativity and Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, the Dekkers earn a full point in creativity for their great storyline and a half an x-factor point for their original, deep dialogue sequences and for their unique characters. This novel turns over a new leaf for it’s genre by proving that meaning, depth, and spiritual encouragement is possible in a thriller. Because of this, we here at BOR think this book would make a great Christian series. The book would need very little alteration to be converted to screenplay form, and most of the dialogue is good as is. As always, it is our continual hope that someone will recognize exceptional novels such as these and adapt them for the big screen.

Wish List Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

Joshua [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a mysterious young man named Joshua suddenly appears in the small town of Auburn, the entire town is astir, especially when he begins rebuilding the Baptist church.  The local Catholic priests are disturbed at his coming, however, especially after he spends time with the ‘sinners’ and even performs a few miracles.  However, those who are impacted by the work of Joshua are changed forever, even those who least expected it.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Although this production looks slightly old at times, it is still a good production.  It checks all the right boxes, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The original soundtrack is fine.  Sets, locations, and props are all what they should be.  However, this production is held back from perfection by some avoidable continuity errors, as well as some cheesy transitions and awkward cuts.  However, on the whole, this is a fine production with no obvious errors.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Based on a novel, the plot of Joshua has some obvious issues that come with the territory of stories that attempt to transpose Biblical events on top of modern day settings.  Using these conventions is almost always mind-bending and problematic for a number of reasons.  In Joshua, it is impossible to know whether or not this is supposed to be a retelling of the original historical account of Jesus, or if this is supposed to be some kind of modern day reappearance before the Second Coming.  The story tries to convince you it’s the latter, but why include all of the repeat miracles in this case?  Even so, there is very little conflict in this tale as useless narration tries to spoon feed the plot to you.  There are also too many characters that are under-developed and one-dimensional due to the narration and the shallow dialogue.  The story jumps from one thing after the next with no real continuity.  Unfortunately, this section is a disappointment.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

However, the acting is the best part of this film, as there are only minor errors to contend with.  For the most part, this cast is professional and on-point in their line delivery and emotional delivery.  Costuming and makeup are also appropriate.  Overall, this section punctuates a mostly average film.

Conclusion

We definitely need more Christian novels made in movie form, as we have said before.  However, this really isn’t the sort of thing we’re looking for.  There’s nothing truly dynamic about this movie.  While it is fine and pedestrian with no obvious goofs, is it really going to make a difference?  Making more cute little Christian films isn’t good enough anymore.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

HAV Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Hamilton A. Vaughn (HAV) was a party boy who had a prison turnaround that led him to be the right-hand man to the prominent pastor of Mission Church.  The pastor tells HAV that he wants HAV to take over the Mission Church, but the pastor’s son objects and decides to get HAV in trouble with a woman to get him sent to prison.  There’s also a woman who runs a social services program and another couple who wants a baby, even though it’s hard to know what they have to do with HAV.  In the end, HAV will have (lol) to come to terms with his faith and who he really believes God is?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, like many small church films, HAV Faith (what kind of title is that?) is somewhat cheap in its production.  However, in some ways, it is better than most small church films.  Video quality is fine, but camera work is shaky in some parts, and lighting is poor in some places.  Audio quality is sometimes fine, but other times it is weird.  The soundtrack is generic.  Sets, locations, and props are slightly cheap and limited, but they improve as the film progresses.  For what it’s worth, the production ends in a better way than it began, but the editing is too all over the place.  In the end, this is just an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously alluded to, although this is supposed to be a modern-day retelling of the Old Testament story of Joseph, HAV Faith is all over the place and certainly does not only focus on this.  Thus, it is very hard to follow what is happening, and the story is very disorienting at times.  The plot is presented in a very confusing fashion as lots of very disconnected and unrelated subplots, which have no relation to each other, are thrown into a proverbial bowl and mixed up.  As the story jumps from one thing to the next with no continuity to speak of, most of the characters, especially the Christian ones and the cheesy villain, are very annoying and stereotypical as they spout programmed dialogue.  Also, part of this story is basically a save the church plot, even though most of it is spent on rushing through parts that have nothing to do with the Joseph parallel.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to understand why this movie was made.

Acting Quality (1 point)

A lot of the time, these cast members are amateurish and are overly-enunciated in their line delivery.  Emotions are over the top and overly practiced.  While there are a few good moments and some improvement throughout, it’s not enough to overcome the overall futility of this film.

Conclusion

Bible story transpositions always problematic because of issues that come up when trying to convert historical plots to modern ideas.  However, things really get complicated when you shove a handful of unrelated subplots into the film that basically have no relation to the original idea in any way.  All I can ask after watching this film is what were they exactly thinking?  One would think that there were multiple writers throwing ideas into this pot, but that is not the case.  This one is a real head-scratcher, to say the least.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Miracle Maker: A Christmas Tale (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In a small village filled with problems at Christmas time, a rumor is being spread around town that the Miracle Maker is coming who will be able to fix all of their problems.  The pastor is uninspired and frustrated with his mother’s stubbornness.  A large family is having financial struggles.  Others have their own personal issues they want to be fixed.  Thus, they all believe that the Miracle Maker is coming to town to fix their problems just in time for Christmas.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

John Lyde and his creative teams have always demonstrated commitment to crafting professional productions in their films.  This is demonstrated in clear video quality, fine audio quality, and good camera work.  However, the soundtrack needs some work to not be silly and holiday-ish.  The sets and locations are somewhat limited at times, but the props are definitely trying.  Furthermore, the editing is slightly choppy in some parts, but is fine in another parts.  In the end, this is yet another great production from this creative team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

John Lyde and his teams have also been consistently trying to create good plots.  However, at the beginning of Miracle Maker, the characters can some off as slightly theatrical and manufactured due to too many silly caricatures.  The dialogue is unnatural at first, yet it improves as the story goes on, thus causing the characters to improve as well.  The use of flashbacks is also effective in helping the characters become more realistic.  Yet there are other issues to point out here, such as one too many montages and a general lack of focus and direction in this story.  While there are a lot of very interesting ideas and concepts contained within this plot, they need to be organized more clearly.  There are too many coincidences that the plot is based upon, and the odd Biblical allegory within is somewhat confusing and presented in a juvenile way.  In the end, while there are plenty of positive point here, everything is fixed too easily in the end, yet there is almost always some good in the plots produced by this creative team.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the costuming in this film is realistic and authentic.  Similarly, the acting seems to mean well, even if they do need a bit more coaching to bring out their fullest potential.  There are times when the cast members are unsure or too stoic, but there are plenty of good elements here that make this section above average.

Conclusion

On the whole, Miracle Maker comes out as another average movie.  Some will enjoy this film, and there are plenty of reasons to be interested in it.  John Lyde and his team always have tons of potential in their work, but they never quite seem to make it all the way.  Perhaps one day soon they will use all of the potential they have and put it towards a great and dynamic film.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Savior [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

What if Mary and Joseph lived in modern day Britain rather than the fantasy world of British Judea?  What if the Magi were random business people who read about it all in the newspaper?  This unique movie reimagines the Christmas story in a way that even BBC has not thought of yet.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This film is basically a small church production, and thus it has its share of quality concerns.  This includes a lot of shaky camera work and sequences of odd lighting.  While video quality is fine, there are also a lot of strange close-up shots of cast members that are off-putting.  There are also some minor background sound issues to content with, as well as some weird sound effects and not enough soundtrack.  As is customary for these types of productions, sets, locations, and props are fairly limited and low-budget.  Furthermore, the editing has some signs of amateurism.  In the end, this is a nice try, but not good enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

At least since they had a lot of British people at their disposal, they decided to go ahead and commit to the idea properly by setting the story in modern day Britain rather than in an imaginary location like British Judea.  But even so, there are plenty of problems that come of these sorts of modern-day Bible allegory things, as usual.  For one, time progresses far too quickly to the point of stunting proper character growth.  Thus, they come off as stiff and unnatural due to rushed, uninspiring dialogue.  There are also too many unrelated asides that waste time, as well as a lot of boring conversations that do nothing to help the characters.  The ending is confusing and isolating, thus hurting any chance of meaningful impact.  In short, while it is always problematic to transpose Biblical events over modern-day circumstances, the plot doesn’t have to be this drab, boring, and confusing.

Acting Quality (1 point)

As an amateurish cast, these cast members would have benefitted from upgraded coaching.  Most of the time, they come off as flat and forced.  There is too much melodrama and yelling throughout.  However, there are some good moments that redeem this section from being worse.  Yet this film overall struggles to find identity.

Conclusion

When a Biblical event is recast in a modern setting, a lot of care needs to be taken and a lot of planning needs to be employed.  This is not a venture to take lightly.  Even so, we don’t try to reconstruct other historical events into modern venues, do we?  This method of storytelling is somewhat questionable, but even if you’re going to use it, it has to be done right, not haphazardly, as this movie was.  Better luck next time.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Dialtone [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a disillusioned Christian lawyer receives a very unusual visit from a man that claims to have access to a special phone that allows the caller to call people in the past who have died in the present, he is very skeptical at first.  However, he finds himself intrigued enough to try to call his recently deceased wife in the past.  But the deeper he goes, the more he discovers that he needs to get right with God before he is ready to truly make a difference.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a very low-key film, attempts were made to make the production worthwhile.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all good, including a creative and intriguing soundtrack.  However, there is some unnecessarily poor lighting and a lot of the sets and locations are quite limited, probably due to budget limitations.  Also, the editing of this film is not really what it should be, especially considering how short it is.  Nonetheless, this is a good effort for a low-budget production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Dialtone is based on a very unique idea, but it is still a time travel plot, and like other time travel plots, it has a lot of continuity and logic problems.  Sci-fi is one thing, but a logic-defying story is hard to justify, even though the effort to be creative is commendable.  Since this idea is so short and underdeveloped, it’s hard to see the justification for it except to beta-test movie-making.  It’s great to have a creative idea, but it needs to be expounded upon.  The characters are also pretty well-developed, but we need to know more about them since there are so few of them.  In the end, creativity should be rewarded, but time travel plots should mostly be avoided.  An idea isn’t enough to carry a film—you need characters to do that for you.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this is a small cast, they post good performances that lack glaring errors.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is on point.  The only drawback is that they can be underwhelming at times, but they really showed effort to make this portion good.

Conclusion

Movies like Dialtone are hard to figure.  It seems like the creative team behind these sorts of films really has potential to do something great, but they just don’t go quite all the way.  It could be that films like this one were started projects, but there isn’t any follow-up, which is unfortunate.  But perhaps one day they will pick it back up again and improve on what they already have.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Return [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Leah of Nod is a thief and has never known anything else.  she spends her days stealing from unsuspecting villagers.  She is being controlled by the evil Dybbuk and doesn’t think she can get out.  But one day, a huntsman named Yadid comes to town and Leah meets him.  He is unlike any man she has ever met and he treats her different than Dybbuk treats her.  But when Leah is accused of wrongdoing and sentenced to death, who will stand up for her?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

With an obvious low budget, the production of The Return is quite cheap, although it seems like it’s the best the team could have done with what they had.  Camera work and video quality are almost passable, but the audio quality is quite bad.  The soundtrack is too loud at times and is too generic.  Though this allegory relies on the quality of its sets, props, and locations, these elements are very cheap and drag the movie down.  Finally, the editing is very unprofessional, with awkward cuts and transitions that make for a choppy presentation.  In the end, since this genre required a more substantial budget, it might have been a better idea to not try to force it to happen with limited resources.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Allegories are always interesting, and it’s refreshing to have a movie from a different genre, but The Return is somewhat simplistic and even childish at times.  The scope and premise are very limited and there are far too few characters.  The small number of characters only highlights the fact that the dialogue is extremely empty and cheesy.  There are too many allegorical concepts that are isolating and need better explanation.  These ideas also need further expansion and development in order to be more substantial.  They are not effective because they are too shallow, thus rendering the allegory almost pointless.  The ending is also confusing and isolating.  In the end, The Return is a nice idea but is greatly short-sighted and underdeveloped.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While is some potential in this cast, they seem quite amateurish and need further coaching.  It seems like they mean well, but they are misguided.  There are too many awkward moments and emotions.  Line delivery random.  Overall, this cast definitely would have benefitted from substantial coaching.

Conclusion

The Return is a half-idea that needed a lot more deepening before it was allowed to go into production.  With a very limited budget and an incomplete concept, more time needed to be given to this project before it was forced into creation.  Allegorical films can be very powerful tools if used properly, but without careful planning, like in the case of The Return, it can become a big disappointment.  There is absolutely a place for this type of film in the Christian entertainment industry, but it must be done properly.  Perhaps in the future, this will happen.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points